Martin Smith: Relief all round as Stoke City break win duck
WE really needed to win on Saturday, and it turned out to be a comfortable three points against a Swansea side who didn't provide the sort of challenge we expected.
Instead of a battle between two sides with different playing philosophies, fans witnessed one team trying to win and the other aimlessly passing the ball around all afternoon.
If I was a Swansea fan, I'd wonder whether the battle to stay in the division is going to be a lot tighter than first thought.
But I'm not, and all of my attention is focused on the performance of the Potters.
With difficult trips to Anfield and Old Trafford next up, anything less than victory could well have seen us joining the early-season strugglers.
First of all, this was a pretty comprehensive victory for Tony Pulis's team.
Once Peter Crouch headed home his first goal, the outcome of the game was never in doubt.
Looking at the good points, we should start with the contribution of Crouch, whose tireless efforts once again showed what a superb acquisition he has been.
Since the change in formation – from 4-4-1-1 to 4-5-1 – we have seen quite a few occasions when Crouch has been left isolated, forced to chase after lost causes and holding the ball up with two and three defenders all over him.
He does the job, though, and has been reaping the rewards inside the penalty area.
With the next England squad due to be named tomorrow, it seems unbelievable that the top-scoring English player in the Premier League should not be an automatic choice for Roy Hodgson.
And while we're on the subject, if Ryan Shawcross is overlooked again then someone should ring the police to report a crime!
Elsewhere, I think everyone will agree that the continuing form of Stephen Nzonzi is a real boost.
On Saturday he was excellent again, competing for every ball and linking up so much of our play.
My own man of the match, though, was Geoff Cameron. But I'll admit that when we signed him I didn't know the first thing about him – where he played or what he did.
However, in his few games since he arrived at Stoke he has looked like an absolute star.
He chases everything, covers the pitch and is superb at winning the ball.
And finally, on the subject of Saturday's good points, a mention for one of this season's unsung heroes so far – Asmir Begovic.
His form this season has been excellent and he now appears to be maturing into an outstanding talent.
There were plenty of teams showing an interest in him a couple of years ago and I imagine it won't be long before we're being forced to fend off more bids.
Back to the game itself and there were a couple of things which show you can always find something to have a little moan about... even when you are winning.
Charlie Adam is no doubt going to be a fine player for us, but at the moment it doesn't look as though he's sure of what his role in the team is.
He also seems to be trying for the killer ball all the time, when the simpler option might be the better choice.
I'm sure he'll get there, but on Saturday he was probably one of our least impressive performers. Having already mentioned Crouch we can look at our other England striker, Michael Owen.
It's early days, but we're still waiting to see how he's going to fit into our team.
And we got no clues on Saturday when he stayed on the bench all afternoon.
He needs fitness and match practice, but it's hard to see how he'll get the latter if he doesn't even get a run out in a game we're winning comfortably.
He's a big name who arrived at the club amid a huge fanfare of media interest so it's only natural that supporters will want to know how we intend to use him. I daresay we'll get to find out in the future.
Finally, having said what a very comfortable and comprehensive victory it was on Saturday, it was a little disappointing to see us struggling to get going in the second half.
We were cruising at the end of the first half, but we just couldn't get going again and managed to hand the initiative back to Swansea. In the first half they looked in trouble every time we got the ball into their area, yet after the break it took us until the 68th minute to get the ball into their box again.
It's only a minor grumble, given the win and the fact we were clearly the better of the two sides, but in the past we have been guilty of not being able to put two good halves together.
It shows, I suppose, that we're still a work in progress and that there's much more to be done.
That point will be highlighted on Sunday when we travel to Anfield to take on a Liverpool team managed by former Swansea boss Brendan Rodgers, who appear to be trying to play in a way we saw from the Swans last season. It'll be a tough and interesting day.